Welcome to Dark Dorset
Welcome to the Dark Dorset website - Dorset's premier website devoted to local folklore, customs, mysteries and the unexplained.
Based on the publication Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror by Robert. J. Newland and Mark. J. North. and Dark Dorset Calendar Customs by Robert. J. Newland. This site is an online compendium of information relating to local folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the county of Dorset.
Click on the menu on the left of your screen to explore the wonderful world of Dark Dorset.
The site is regularly updated, so I do hope that you come back soon!
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- Autumnal Equinox - The Onset Of Darkness
The ‘Autumnal Equinox’ or ‘Mabon’ as it was once called, occurs on either, 21st, 22nd or 23rd September, when the sun enters ‘Libra’, according to the Earth’s orbit and the insertion of leap years. The Autumn Equinox marks the time when the sun crosses southwards towards the celestial equator or ‘half way point’, resulting in equal twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night. Like the ‘Spring Equinox’, the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west, except after today the daylight hours grow steadily shorter until the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky at the ‘Winter Solstice’.
The full moon nearest to the Autumn Equinox is called the Harvest Moon the time of harvesting apples, blackberries, grapes and hops, as the arable crops have now all been gathered and celebrated at Lammas, the first of the harvest festivals. It was also the time when livestock would be slaughtered and preserved (salted and smoked) to provide enough food for the winter.
Autumn is the time that the Colepexy, a fairy orchard guardian, protects apple orchards from thieves. Read more about this magical fairy creature by clickling here: The Colepexy - The Orchard Guardian
- The Bloody Assizes
On 11th september 1685, The Bloody Assizes was opened at Lyme Regis. The next day twelve men were executed on the beach west of the Cobb and their body parts were spiked up along the railings around the church. Two of the men's heads were impaled on the iron gates of the great house in Broad Street, now known as Chatham House. It was here that Judge Jeffreys was said to have dined on the night before the executions. Ever his ghost has been seen carrying a bloody bone in the house and gnawing upon it outside in the street.
- Michaelmas Day
The 29th September is better known as ‘Michaelmas Day’, or ‘The Feast of St Michael and All Angels’. ‘St Michael’ is the archangel who personally threw ‘Lucifer’ out of Heaven. According to the legend, when Lucifer fell from grace, he landed on Earth right in the middle of a bramble bush. Since then, he returns on every anniversary to get his revenge by fouling and spitting upon all unpicked blackberries. Therefore it is believed whoever gathers them afterwards will have bad luck! It is true that, by this day, maggots and early frosts will probably have spoilt the crop!
Michaelmas was considered another key date for weather predictions. A clear sunny Michaelmas Day meant that a dry but freezing winter lay ahead.
If ducks do slide at Michaelmas,
At Christmas they will swim;
If ducks do swim at Michaelmas
At Christmas they will slide.
- Folklore, Customs and Ghost Stories in Sherborne - Elisabeth Bletsoe of Sherborne Museum explores the folklore, customs and hauntings of this ancient Dorset market town.
- Well Dressing and Sacred Water - Dorset Archaeologist Chris Tripp, looks at the folk customs and traditions associated with water and how these ancient rituals still remain with us to this day.
- Folklore of William Barnes - We revisit an early article from the 1920s written by local Folklorist and Historian, John Symonds Udal. He discusses folklore of the county and how it influenced the writings and poetry of Dorset dialectologist Rev. William Barnes.
- Cerne Abbas - A brief history of the village with local Legends and Customs.
- Sea Dragons, Fairy Loaves & Serpents of Stone - Dr. Karl Shuker explores the folklore and proto-scientific beliefs attached to Lyme Regis's most famous fossils.
- Daisy Wheels and a Ritual Landscape in Dorset - Ric Kemp examines the strange, centuries-old religious symbols and carvings which can be found in churches in and around Dorset.
Drawing on historical and contemporary sources, 'Haunted Weymouth' by local ghost tour guide Alex Woodward, is sure to send a shiver down the spine of anyone daring to learn more about the haunted history of the area. Including many previously unpublished stories, this book will appeal to both serious ghost hunters and those who simply want to discover what frights lurk beneath the surface of this once royal seaside resort.
The Recollections of Rifleman Harris Audio CD is abridged from an 1848 first edition of this famous historical memoir of a Rifleman Benjamin Randell Harris, from the 95th Rifles, in the Napoleonic Wars. This CD production by Explore Multimedia is read by Jason Salkey, who played the character of ‘Rifleman Harris’ in the Sharpe TV Series and provides a brilliant complement to his Harris diaries DVD series. Sound FX are provided by The 95th Rifles Re-enactment Society. A musical score by Adam Wakeman adds to this excellent production.
The tale of the Black Dog of Bungay and the infamous attack on the church of St. Marys in 1577, has inspired and fascinated residents and visitors to the town for centuries along with tales of Black Shuck the Ghostly Dog of Norfolk.
To this day, sightings of the Black Dog are common through the region and form an integral part of local folklore and myth. At the same time, the history of the legend itself tells its own tale of the town of Bungay and how the community has responded to crisis through local folklore and myth.
This book, a collaborative effort between local historian Christopher Reeve and historian and anthropologist Dr. David Waldron, traces the rise of this story from its origins in the trauma of the English Reformation to the contemporary era where it has become a central part of Bungay’s communal and civic identity and a colourful and intriguing aspect of local folklore.
Paranormal Purbeck - A Study of the Unexplained by David Leadbetter
A collection of remarkable experiences from the Isle of Purbeck. It visits nearly 70 sites and has contributions from over a hundred local people.
Most of the first-hand accounts have never been published before, suggesting that the ‘paranormal’ is more commonplace than we generally suppose and is perceived intuitively, depending on the right combination of circumstances.
The author challenges fixed opinions and beliefs, offering detailed personal experiences from a small geographical area and arguing that we need a fundamental reappraisal of how we view the world.
Anyone with a thirst for mysteries and a desire to extend the frontiers of human knowledge will be gripped.
If you are looking for something different this Summer, then ghost tours can provide some great entertainment, especially if they're ghost tours after dark. With Dorset having a lot of ghosts, it stands that there will be quite a number of ghost tours and haunted walks to be enjoyed.
We have gathered a collection of haunted walks, some permanent, some seasonal, which you can investigate.
PLEASE NOTE - Most of these guided ghost tours will require booking - and because of the nature of these ghost tours you should always at least contact the organisers (as they are NOT organised by Dark Dorset) to ensure there have been no changes to the plans as changes can occur at any time for many reasons.